Olympics 2016: WHO Chief Says Zika Risk Low, Do Scientists Agree?

Zika Virus in the US [Photo via iStock]

As the Zika virus reaches the U.S., many worry if this will affect the big Olympics for the year. However, according to World Health Organization chief, the risk is low and manageable.

According to Associated Press, about half a million participants are expected to arrive at the Olympics in Rio this year. Majority of the attendees would also come from the U.S.

Considering that Brazil has been one of the most affected areas for the Zika outbreak, travelers are getting hesitant to attend the event. Aside from the economic crisis in the area, potential visitors have had reservations in booking for Olympics 2016. They also fear that if they contract Zika, they might be one of the catalysts of the virus all over the world.

“We feel that the risk of Zika infection is low for an individual, and it is manageable,” Margaret Chan, director general of the world health body, told reporters in the Chinese capital.

Sarah Kohn of the Wisconsin National Primate research Center (WNPRC) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison [Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]
“As long as individuals take appropriate personal protective measures, including the use of a mosquito repellent, including wearing clothing that prevents mosquito bites,” she added.

The WHO used their own assessment that added factors regarding the latest research on the Zika virus and the current geographical status in Brazil. According to Chan, she, herself will be attending the Games.

On top of the fair warning to the attendees, Chan spoke to the visitors and advised everyone to always use condoms since the Zika virus can be transmitted via intercourse.

“When you go to Brazil, to Rio, practice safe sex, please use condoms.”

“Of course, we also have learnt from the latest evidence it’s not just infected men who can pass the disease to their sex partners. There was a case of a lady passing the disease to a man, so it can go both directions.”

But Is It Really Safe To Attend The Rio Olympics?

As the Rio Olympics starts next week, there is still a surge of doubters who are scared they might get Zika during their visit in Rio de Jainero for the Games. According to HowStuffWorks, there is an expected 500,000 visitors aside from the main attendees of the games who are expected to make the trip.

Zika is the top concern of the visitors aside from the incomplete housing facilities and pollution.

However, the study done by the researchers at the Yale School of Public Health noted that the Zika virus may not be as scary as the media portrays it to be—at least not in Brazil.

The study, entitled “Low Risk for International Zika Virus Spread due to the 2016 Olympics in Brazil,” did not deny that Brazil is one of the most affected countries that has the Zika virus.

Zika Testing Center [Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]
Because of this, the notion that the Zika virus would spread amongst the travelers has been widespread. However, it is important to understand that Zika can only be transmitted via unprotected intercourse. Though there is no cure for the Zika virus just yet, the study has used “quantitative determinations” to really analyze the risk for travelers to contract the virus.

“Our calculation provides worst-case estimates of traveler-associated ZIKV risk by assuming that visitors encounter the same infectious exposures as local residents.”

In their estimate, a visitor’s probability of contracting the Zika virus is 1 in 56, 300. They also considered that there will be a lower rate of pregnant women who will travel to Rio for the event.

The study finally concluded that the policymakers have had the correct information regarding the status of the epidemic in Rio. It is possible that the worst reactions had only resulted because of the extreme representation of Zika virus in the media, but the study still advises everyone that it is a “top priority to inform the public of ZIKV (Zika virus) risk and effective prevention measures.”

[Photo via iStock]